Designer Ozwald Boateng Tells “A Man’s Story”

Designer Ozwald Boateng Tells “A Man’s Story” (photo)

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Directed by Varon Bonicos (who also created the TV series “House of Boateng”), the documentary “A Man’s Story” spans an epic dozen years in the life of its subject, designer and larger than life fashion world figure Ozwald Boateng. The youngest and first black tailor to open a shop on London’s Savile Row, Boateng starts the film in 1998 at a low point, having lost his business in the midst of a tough divorce. “A Man’s Story” treks through the next decade-plus at a breakneck pace, charting Boateng’s stint at Givenchy, his marriage, the birth of his two children, his second divorce, his celebrity-studded charity event in Ghana, fashion shows in Milan, in Paris, in London, trips to China, Russia, Los Angeles, Doha, runways, red carpets, offices, storefronts, parties, planes. It’s a glittering blur throughout which Boateng remains tireless, both in his work and as a careful curator of his personal brand. I caught up with filmmaker and his subject after the film’s world premiere here at the fittingly upscale Abu Dhabi Film Festival — both were clad, of course, in impeccable suits.

When this started, it was intended to be a three to five month project — how did it end up going on for so much longer?

Ozwald Boateng: There’s no easy answer to that, because it doesn’t really make any sense. No one would plan a film for 12 years. Varon has maybe 400 hours of usable material. To put that into an hour and a half is quite something, and when you watch it you don’t realize you’re actually carrying that amount of weight. You feel the emotional experience, but you slip through the time, it’s very cleverly put together in that way.

The film is about belief, about love, about getting it right and getting it wrong, getting it right, getting it wrong. If you look at anyone’s life over that period, it looks like that. And there are a lot of famous people in the film, but you don’t feel their fame, you feel them as people. That’s one of the fundamental points, communicating that wherever you are in your life, we’re all still trying to get to the same place emotionally. And I’ve been able to expose myself in a way that under normal circumstances is not done. The first time I watched the film, I couldn’t speak for a week, week and a half about it.

10222010_mansstory4.jpgVaron Bonicos: For me, it’s like when you have a newsprint picture. You look at it really close and can only see one dot, and you start to pull out and you see lots and lots of dots, and by the time you get to the end, the edge, you go “Oh my god, that’s the picture!”

How did you know you were done?

VB: Ozwald was always very confident in everything, but he got to the point in his life where he was absolutely set. If you ultimately love something you have to be able to let it go — that’s one of the things that I learned.

Ozwald, you’ve made ten short films yourself, have they all been connected to collections?

OB: The first catwalk show I did in Paris in 1994, my invite was a short film. Those days it was on VHS cassettes. It seemed like a really interesting tool to use — film is immediate in terms of delivering an emotion. When you show the clothes afterward, it’s a good set-up for that. That became a part of my creative life.

When Varon started filming, I already had an understanding of film, and that’s kind of why I agreed to make the piece… which was supposed to last three to six months. Why he was able to film so long — he has a gift for disappearing. He’s been in places with me where it’s impossible to film, but he’s been able to film. I’m a creative — I challenge myself a lot, so I understand the gift of being able to do that.

Varon, did you show Ozwald any rough cuts along the way?

VB: No, the interview at the end, where he talks about the dream, he saw it just before. If you rewind your life 12 years — I think he was quite blown away, because you forget everything.

Ozwald, can you tell me about the work you’ve done in film costume design?

OB: Usually I dress characters — more often than not, the lead. I’d like to dress a whole movie, like Armani did for “The Untouchables.”

10222010_mansstory5.jpgDoes that happen often?

OB: No, that’s rare. You almost take the role of a wardrobe designer for the film. In terms of how it works, wardrobe will come to me and have a character in mind, and I’ll create a series of looks. In the case of “Miami Vice,” where I was dressing Jamie Foxx, I went and saw Michael Mann. I showed him the Chinese film [shot during the course of the documentary], he liked that. He works very similar to me — he creates a series of mood boards, he’s very visual in his process.

He’s also very detailed. Jamie was wearing one of my pieces, and Michael Mann talked about moving the button down about a centimeter. I thought I was the only one who was crazy enough to think in those terms. I said, well, look, I’ve spent the last 17 years figuring [these things] out, trust me, it’s in the right place. He still tried to go on about it. Jamie said, I don’t think that’s a good idea! Then we had a big laugh about it. Creating for film is really understanding the character.

Are there any films you’ve found particularly inspiring in your work?

OB: I did some clothes for a James Bond film, but it was for the bad guy. I want to dress James Bond. In 1995, I did a whole James Bond fashion show in Paris. It was quite a number, actually. I did it at the circus, and had models dropping from the ceiling. On that collection, I won Designer of the Year in France. It really struck a chord. That show was inspired by the whole James Bond, the man who could be everything. I’ve always been on this journey of discovering what makes men tick. The whole concept of making a suit, being a tailor is understanding the needs of the man you’re making the suit for.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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